A Canadian-American's Take On Australia In A Fast-Changing World
By Jerome Irwin
09 June, 2016
(A Peek Down Under Via New South Wales Tough Political Terrain)
Australia is on the verge of electing a new Prime Minister or re-electing an old one. Towards which direction in their Federal Election will the Aussie voters swing? Will the direction taken, point towards a future of Republicanism or State Fascism? A Government “By & For The People” or “By & For The Corporations”? Will they swing in favour of renewing “The Land of the Fair Go”, for which the Aussie's are so famous, or will the direction taken instead lead towards a land of “The Fair Go No More?”This huge question of direction is one that currently faces not only Australia but voters in the United States, United Kingdom and others in the West; the fate and destiny of the entire world hinges on the results.
This Canadian-American writer recently spent a brief sojourn in Sydney, New South Wales, as all the election rhetoric began to mount. The international traveler, as an outsider looking in, always has a unique perspective from which to view whatever strange new culture that's not their own. The temporary visitor can tell, too, so much at a glance about not only the political, cultural, economic state of the world and plight of humanity in the 21st Century, but also about the narrative of whatever country, its people and their aspirations; as defined by the myths, dreams and images of themselves they hold sacred and those they would vote into public office to represent these aspirations to the world:
ONE TRAVELER'S INTRODUCTION TO THE REALITIES OF AUSTRALIA & THE WORLD
When the author Donald Horne wrote, in 1964, the line, “Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-class people who share its luck”, and made it the title of his now famous book The Lucky Country, it became an instant sensation in his native homeland. Yet besides taking Australian society to task for its then philistinism, provincialism and over-dependence upon its mother country Britain, as Horne intended, it also became the instant embodiment of how Australian's see themselves in relationship to the rest of the world, and their penchant for celebrating life in exuberant ways by virtue of the fact that they share the blessed good fortune for being born “In the Land of the Fair Go”, and hence are the lucky recipients of a country, that in the 1960's, was then considered to have the most equitable spread of personal income in the world. To draw upon an idiom from the New Testament's parable of The Prodigal Son, the Aussie way of life quickly became synonymous in the minds of many in the world with the “Killing of the Fatted Calf.”
However, in the 21st century, there are those who now wonder, because of Australia's swing towards neo-liberalism in recent years, if that New Testament idiom image is changing, or has long since changed, into yet a different idiom that this time comes from one of Aesop's Fables that speaks of the “killing of the goose that laid the golden eggs”, because, as they contend, those golden eggs that once created “The Land of the Fair Go”, now are turning things into the “Land of the Fair Go No More!”
Since the 19th century, Australia's unique way of life has led the way for the world to follow in establishing any number of sound democratic and economic principles (i.e. proportional representation. mandatory voting, 40 hr. work week, equitable labour rights, a tax-free pension plan and livable minimum hourly wage) that created a model for its people that was the envy of the world.
Yet from this world traveler's perspective, Aussie politics and life in general – in Sydney, New South Wales, and Australia at large – seems to have started unraveling. In the last go around of state and federal elections, Australian voters obviously weren't satisfied with what they already had and decided they wanted something better or different. It was instructive to watch as big globalization-privatization forces – and their counterparts in the TV, radio and newsprint industry – all champing at the bit to deregulate the agricultural, mining, business-and financial industries, and sell off public assets to private profit interests - went to work with a vengeance against Prime Minister Julia Gillard, her Labor Party, and its Green Carbon Tax on the Resource Industry; manipulating, cajoling and propagandizing the electorate until they'd sacked the lot. To this observer,what appeared to be destroyed, in the process, was a sterling model for political and economic governance.
What seemed clear was the sense that one of life's primary wisdoms had been seriously violated; namely that old adage: “If it isn't broken don't fix it!”Ever since, by what has transpired in the political, economic and cultural realms, it would appear that many good minds have sought to try to fix it, but that Australia now appears to be mired in the pooh along with the rest of the world. Which calls into question - in light of the dismal turn of events that since have come to pass in recent years in New South Wales, Australia, and the world at large - the kind of political leadership that everywhere has been chosen to read all the signs and omens. The results don't reflect well on the wisdom of the voting masses or augur well for the future.
A recent journey taken to Sydney, Australia, in search of some answers to this question, provided some startling impressions of how life everywhere continues to unravel in the 21ST Century's pressure cooker world as Lifeboat Earth continues to exceed the maximum safe capacity for its passengers: those safely on-board, as well as those desperate, floundering ones everywhere crying out for rescue. ‘Lifeboat Earth' fraught with an array of turmoil and tumultuous change caused by: unchecked wars, population explosion; globalization, fleeing refugees and migrants, mounting climate change, calamitous economic crashes, a deteriorating natural world and renewed talk of yet more nuclear proliferation and Cold War hyperbole; not to mention the world's ultra-rich who more and more hide-park-launder ever more obscene amounts of crooked-illegal-monies in all-manner of mega-commercial and residential redevelopment projects that are destabilizing Australia as they are every other culture and society, world-wide.
Thoughtful ordinary humans everywhere don't have to be rocket scientists or crystal-ball gazers to see how much of the military-political-economic-financial chaos in the world is being caused by the actions of so many neoliberal politicians, economists, ideologues and corporate heads who lack any abiding code of ethics and morality and who - no matter how they may try to rebrand, disguise or portray themselves as horses of a different colour – still are what they are, always have been and always will be: old-fashioned fascists committing acts of fascism.
The world's harsh realities continue to everywhere fuel among the masses a desperate hunger for visionary leadership - however demagogical, authoritarian, or neo-fascist it may be - who grow ever more prepared to grant to whatever charismatic, firebrand untoward sweeping powers so long as the people are promised everything under the moon that will realize all their fervent frustrated hopes and dreams for the future and make their country great once again.
But, in truth, whatever new leaders ultimately are chosen, if they go to the great lengths they must to try to fulfill such empty promises, won't end up ever being any different than were the Hirohito's, Tojo's, Mussolini's and Hitler's of yesteryear who once promised so many similar things they never could deliver, either.
Such realities always bring front and centre the challenges that every citizen – every voter – in every country, especially in the West, must face if they hope to avoid seeing whatever new world reality through which they pass with the same rose-tinted glasses of the disconnected tourist or dull-witted human who has eyes but never sees the real truth, whose ears can hear but never really listen to what these truths demand of them, or whose brains are working receptors but are never receptive to the actual essence of what all the new input radically requires of them.
With these thoughts in mind, this traveler began his investigative, vision-questing journey of sorts from Vancouver's YVR International en route Down Under to Sydney, New South Wales to take a first person look at how the tough political terrain there is faring. The arrival at Sydney's Mascot International proved to be the first of many eye-popping openers still to come of how rapidly Sydney, New South Wales, Australia - indeed, the World - is changing so rapidly.
In just one year, since this writer's last passage through Mascot's arrival and departure transit areas, it had undergone a massive reconstruction and expansion phase that reflected the first of many startling harsh realities of the way things are in the world. To describe what that felt like, that still only could be but barely sensed in that brief snapshot moment, was as if the image at Mascot was that of a “Vancouver YVR on mega-steroids or some addict on an opiate over-dose”. The cold, hard new airport development and presence of milling, chaotic throngs of foreign nationals already alluded to some new addiction that - economically, politically and culturally – seemed to be going on. What that substance was still remained to be seen.
At a glance, the view of long queues of international travelers, especially from Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, served as a harbinger of what those addictions were. It seemed obvious that Australia's politicians, economists, commercial and tourist trade officials had put their heads together and decided it was time to dramatically ramp up their willingness to accept into their midst however many more tourists, offshore investors and masses of others from strange and different parts of the world, so long as their pockets bulged with money.
One immediate thought that struck this observer was that the excessive acquisition of wealth and greed that fuels it, that seemed everywhere in evidence through this initial peek at Sydney, symbolized one of Lifeboat Earth's worst addictions and harshest ethic that perpetually argues in favor of the inherent right of the rich and privileged to forever dominate the vast majority of those who possess neither.
The hordes of free-floating rich and poor humans alike everywhere in the world now represent in this one's opine, a, by far, more pressing, universal crisis than even ‘Global Warming' or ‘The War Against Terrorism', because it signifies the epic passing of a multitude of once relatively-stable traditional world cultures and changing sweep of an entire civilization that seems beyond whatever world body or national leader's ability to do anything to prevent.
As this lone temporary visitor joined Mascot's long restless queue of tourists, immigrants and transiting passengers, all eager to get to their ultimate destinations, a litany of thoughts vied for the mind's attention as the hordes jostled and pushed in front and behind, nudging us all ever slowly forward together, en mass, towards Mascot's immigration entry point.
The questions raised in thought were those imagined that, in another distant time and place, would have been asked by whatever Old World leader or council of European or Aboriginal elders about so many other strangers from strange new lands who were suddenly arriving on their doorstep, asking for admittance into their homes, communities and way of life.
But such elder councils have long since lost much of the power, influence and control over their lives and native homelands. One could argue that the result has led to: cataclysmic population explosion; escalating global warming; a grossly-unequal distribution of wealth, and; slaughter of so many by unchecked global warfare over disputed territories; that, combined, continue to create an ever-widening Diaspora of humanity and World Government in wild flux. Before things can ever change for the better, the suicide-bent nature of the human race, obviously, will, simply have to run its course until everyone slams head-on into the same brick wall!
A thought flashed into this one's mind as we drifting souls aboard Lifeboat Earth silently continued to shuffle single-file together along Mascot's immigration queue. “Of course”, it declared, “tourism, immigration, refugees, migrants are a natural part of the human condition and have been since the beginning of time. But now, with what all is being foisted on the human race, everything has been turned topsy-turvy, on its head, and can only end up but one tragic way!”
A host of still other thoughts and questions followed that were the same as those pondered about the country of Canada that had just been left behind on the far side of The Big Pacific Pond. The first and foremost question asked, “It's a ridiculous stretch of the imagination to think of today's politicians and business leaders in every country in the world as everyone's local ‘Aboriginal Councils of Elders', who are perpetually on guard like faithful watchdogs, at the entrances to all our villages, towns and cities, who have only one thing in mind: our own best interests and the survival of our way of life. These Councils of Elders prepared, at the slightest hint of warning, to send whatever undesirable strangers packing with the aid of our warriors if need be.”
“So why”, asked the next, most obvious thought, “are so many of our politicians and business leaders in the West seemingly asleep at their posts, who've left the gates to all our towns, villages and cities wide-open, whether physically or through cyber-space, and allowed, pell-mell, into the bosom of our homelands so many unwanted, undesirable strangers?”
As this one continued to shuffle along the queue, a host of vying questions all wondered, “Is ‘Fear' the basic motivator in the West, driven by some absurd race for survival or so-called ‘progress', measured by how well it can keep up with the exponential growth of so many burgeoning populations in Asia, South East Asia or the Middle East? Is it a matter of pure economics to try to keep their societies financially-buoyant at any cost, with little concern for how these newcomers might fit into or despoil the traditional cultures and way of life of their own peoples? Is their main concern less about the newcomers undesirable backgrounds, the questionable way they amassed their wealth, or were brought up to believe in things antithetical to Western values and beliefs, such as the creation of: harsh punishments for crimes committed under Sharia Law; the sex-selection practice of arbitrarily terminating female fetuses in preference to male fetuses or; the mutilating circumcisions of female babies genitalia? How much concern is given to the values and beliefs of these newcomers, who might be hostilely-opposed to their new host nation's resolve to address whatever pressing issues of the day: equality for women, LGBT rights, abortion, doctor-assisted euthanasia, universal health care, protection of the natural environment or fair and equitable labour laws? By accepting within their midst so many radically different cultural beliefs and practices, how do all the politicians and corporate leaders intend to ensure the stability of their countries while maintaining and protecting their own people's cherished ways of life? In the end, is the bottom-line simply how well heeled these newcomers may be or how generously they will grease the palms and wheels of whomever and whatever?”
As this one melded into a polyglot mass of world travelers, all talking in tongues, as we shuffled together at a snail's pace along Mascot's immigration queue, a host of still other ‘Lifeboat Earth' questions struggled for answers: Is the majority of Australia's citizenry, or whatever other Western country, in favor of the massive numbers of newcomer tourists, immigrants, investors or whomever that are being thrust into their midst, or is it against their will and better judgment? What real weight has their dissent been given to the on-going massive displacements and resettlements of so much humanity in the world? What fundamentally is being done to stop all the wars that are behind the worldwide Diaspora that's perpetually being caused by those same smug, arrogant ones who remain indifferent as they gleefully amass ever-greater profits, power and control from all the violence and chaos?”
This observer's mind kept returning again and again to what seemed like that single-most cataclysmic question of all that underlies the human race's unquenchable penchant for-unending war and population explosion. Namely, “What, on God's green earth, is the hoped for outcome to all this madness?”
As the queue at Mascot continued to wind its way back and forth, along a twisting labyrinth of cordoned switchbacks, all such imponderable questions caused this writer-traveler-perplexed human to further wonder, “In the end, are we all just pawns in some raving lunatic's cosmic game? Is this why the massive rates of suicide, depression and addictions of all kinds continue to skyrocket throughout the world, especially amongst the youth, aboriginal peoples and women, as the grim reality of what the world's future holds continues to seep into humanity's collective consciousness, especially among the Millennial Generation? Is there a devious master plan afoot somewhere that intends the human race to, one-day, become reduced down to a single, mish-mash, multi-cultural pottage in some non-descript borderless, nation-less state for some more evolved, higher purpose in the future? Or is what all is happening but another troubling benchmark sign of an on-going regression being caused by yet a new batch of megalomaniacal kings, queens and feudal lords who have no qualms whatsoever about returning the entire human race to some more mean, dismal state of existence for whatever their own gain?”
What this one would soon hear falling from the lips of so many Aussie's were tales and accounts of how radically altered their lives were becoming with what all was going on in their society. About to be oft heard, too, was the same sad refrain, and anger welling up beneath it, that collectively cried out, “What's going on really breaks my heart!”
Yet for as many times as this sad refrain would be heard, this one would also hear more than one Aboriginal elder somewhere respond to the same sentiments but with the added comment, “Welcome to the club! Now you know how the hearts of our mob have long been broken from being constantly forced to live in the crazy fast lane of you White Fellas!”
IT'S AN OLD STORY OF RUTHLESS CHANGE OFT TOLD
Before boarding the Air Canada 747 flight at Canada's YVR, this one read in a local newspaper what would seem to be a pithy answer to all such questions and sums up the 21st Century philosophy of so many of today's political and financial movers and shakers in the world.
A young, arrogant, neo con developer from Asia, whose father had created, by criminal-illicit means, billions from the insensitive redevelopment of whole cities in Asia and elsewhere, at the expense of so many others ways of life, had just taken over the Canadian reins of his ruthless father's empire. This modern Ghenghis Khan glibly declared, “The Old World and its way of life is over! It's a thing of the past! Everyone is going to have to get over it and accept the way things now are. Besides, the world is still a big empty place with a lot more room for a lot more people and a lot more development.” This same argument would soon be heard coming from every sector of Australia's corporate, business and political leaders.
This one had heard, so many times before, the same flawed Empty Country argument posed in Western countries like Canada and Australia as a rationale for the vast forced changes to life they continue to forcibly attempt to foster. But in Canada, as in Australia, it's a misnomer because in both countries the majority of their populace is crowded into their peripheries due to the inhospitable, uninhabitable climates of their interiors to ever naturally attract and perpetually hold and sustain endless numbers of newcomers because of a serious lack of infrastructure, employment, housing and services to support endless increases in new demographics.
Yet the world's politicos and their governments always seem to remain so bewildered about what else to do to curb the destructive impact of such things as population explosion and perpetual war and create in their place a stable, self-sustaining new world order. So, due to the lack of requisite imagination and vision, they simply continue, by default, to foster the baser ideas of: perpetual mindless growth, based upon an ever-dwindling supply of fossil fuels, ever-greater density, deregulation of whatever checks and balance controls and ever more severe austerity measures.
Hence the growing populace ends up evermore packed together in ghettoized silo-communities along the increasingly-less inhabitable urban edges of the world until ever-burgeoning economic, political and societal pressures push a reluctant populace ever further into the hinterlands; which gives one cause to wonder if all the world's neo-con politicians, economists, militarists, corporate heads and real estate moguls, who constantly foment and goad onward the dynamics behind the mass exodus and Diaspora of peoples, are, to put it bluntly, traitors and betrayers of their own peoples way of life and the sacred trust given to them to uphold by their cultures and the ancient birthright of their homelands. These officials, mostly driven by their own self-interests, self-aggrandizement and insatiable egos, seemingly prepared to endlessly flood the lives of their constituents and clients with those who they know, consciously or unconsciously, will radically displace or totally transform the future of their homeland.
Finally, as this one approached the end of Mascot airport's long passport queue, still ruminating upon such ponderous matters, one last question begged, “Who, indeed, are the Machiavellian ‘Darth Vadar' masterminds who are behind all the plotting and directing of this crazed world?” Before any answers could come, an Aussie immigration official was heard to say, as he stamped his seal of approval on this one's passport, “Welcome back again, Irwin. You're good to go, Mate! OOROO!”
AUSTRALIA'S TOUGH POLITICAL TERRAIN AS SEEN UP CLOSE IN THE FAST LANE
With the first steps taken on Australian soil, it wasn't long before a Sydney Morning Herald was picked up at a local news agency, and an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news segment caught on ‘telly', that began to further inform this reader about all such questions as seen through the mean tough political and financial terrain of Sydney and New South Wales: the local radio, television and print media chock-a-block full of scandal after scandal of corporate-political-economic corruption, crime and betrayal of the peoples trust.
For starts, one newsprint column sought to point out that since 2011, Fairfax Media, who owns the Sydney Morning Herald, among other metro and national newspapers, cut almost 800 jobs from its editorial staff all across Australia. Hence, 1-in-5 of every newsroom staff, like everywhere else in the world, has been fired by the higher-ups who strive to limit the number of investigative journalism stories (the Herald's count 9000 in 2015) that superb, award-winning reporters struggle to uncover every day.
Yet the Machiavellian ideologues in Australia, as in Canada and everywhere else in the world, constantly strive to restrict the brilliance of so many investigative pieces from ever reaching the public's awareness. During the some two months that this writer was a part of the Sydney scene, Fairfax Media fired an additional 80 reporters more from their metro-regional-community empire to the point where the long term plan apparently is to reduce the much-acclaimed Sydney Morning Herald – known for its always independent, fearless journalism – to a virtual online newspaper (Monday to Friday), with only a weekend version available in print. Thus much of the work being done to expose the extent of the dirty monies that the scoundrels daily pour into Australia, from all points on the compass, will become silenced. In the process, traditional Aussie culture, the natural world and its eco-systems will continue to suffer, grievously. With fewer and fewer objective news sources left available, other than the typical right-wing propaganda rags daily spewing out their garbage, a dumb-down of the populace is assured in the future as it is everywhere else in the world, which, of course, is the intended plan by the ‘Darth Vaders' who quietly stay deep in the shadows, darkly ruling the world.
One glaring example of so much raging corruption and development going on Down Under is that some observers of the local scene say that 10% of all construction cranes in the world now are to be found mainly in Australia's major metro-urban areas, second only to those found in Dubai, with 97% of these cranes now in Sydney's metro political region itself. No matter how one spins it, for better or worse, a real feeding frenzy obviously is going on.
Once this observer found himself standing in the heart of Sydney's CBD, it required only a 360 degree glance around the skyline to realize why it is touted to be “The Construction King” of the world, where more cranes can be seen today than even in places like New York or Los Angeles. It only took a short ferry ride from Sydney's Circular Quay on the Fast Cat up the Parramatta River to NSW's 2000 World Olympic Park to see where only a few years ago one could take a peaceful journey along open bush and mangrove swamps where now everywhere popping up are still more construction cranes, wrecking balls and completed, or in the act of being completed, monster luxury homes. Or then, say, take a train trip from Sydney's Central Station in whatever direction to some distant NSW destination and take notice along the way, on both sides of the tracks, of the every-burgeoning numbers of high-rise, high-density developments where not long ago once beautiful, stylish Victorian or Federation-style homes once were everywhere more prominent. One-time rural villages like Campbelltown and nearby Camden, that once were isolated in NSW's former, world-famous sheep country, now are becoming ever more sprawling masses of monster box subdivisions, built close enough to one another to allow one, if they had a mind to do so, to jump from roof to roof for veritable blocks at a stretch.
In the recent past, much to the chagrin of many, alarm bells immediately began ringing with the elections of Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the NSW Premier Mike Baird when they both proudly declared to the world, with great fanfare and beaming faces, “WE ARE NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS!” Ever since those voter-ratified elections, it has become ever more abundantly clear the degree to which this is Australia's new narrative for itself. Sydney and other major metropolitan centres in NSW and Australia certainly being places where the corporations and developers have been given the green light to ‘GO FOR IT!” Yet still others wouldn't put it quite so sanguinely. Rather than places like Sydney being “On the Go”, they would say - with a bit of good old-fashioned, straight to the point, Aussie lingo – “The blokes have all DROPPED THEIR BUNDLES!
Case in point is an on-going front page news story about the continuing debate over the notorious Barangaroo Tower project, a 70 storey, and still-counting up to 90, mega-monster-storied casino-hotel-development, located on the opposite side of the Harbour Bridge from Sydney's Opera House, along a stretch of wharf area that once was called “The Hungry Mile”, by dock workers looking for temporary work during the Depression Era, but now is mockingly referred to by its detractors as “The Greedy Mile”. The Barangaroo Towers project, a brain-child of the Australian development mogul Jamie Packard and his $1 billion dollar Crown Limited casino group has so far mightily pitted past and present mayors of Sydney against one another, and caused former Prime Minister's and prominent architects to have a heated go, maligning each other at every chance. Critics of the project refer to Barangaroo as a quintessential Sydney property story of ruthless corporate greed and corruption. Some, like its original architect Phillip Thalis, even call it an archetypal story of modern Australia and a demonstration of everything that is wrong in contemporary Australia or, as Aboriginal peoples themselves simply put it from time to time, “It's just more White Fella's talkin' with forked tongues again.”
Once the Barangaroo Tower is completed it will have a residential penthouse apartment that, potentially, is said will be worth $100 million, with the hotel rooms in its tower costing upwards of $40,000 a night for high-rollers, which suggests the effete, well-heeled international crowd it intends to attract through its doors. Once the project is completed, those world-class performers - like Mariah Carey, Jamie Packard's new wife - no doubt will find its glitzy entertainment-gambling-casino complex much to their liking, even though it will destroy the classic character of Sydney's inner harbour and former way of life of its local Sydneysiders.
The original Barangaroo, after whom this high-rise complex is named, was a Cammeraygal woman. Historically, she was the wife of Bennelong, the aboriginal cohort of the First Fleet's Governor Arthur Phillip, who once lived on Bennelong Point where now stands Sydney's Opera House. Barangaroo and Bennelong no doubt turn in their graves as they listen to all the wrangling being done in their names as greedy privatization interests of this project – that some say should more truthfully be called The Babylongaroo Tower – threatens the commonweal of the citizenry on lands that once were the ancient homelands of the Cadigal peoples.
Another classic archetypal ‘front page' story to appear in the press underscores the bald-faced ruthless nature of a modern Australian government dead-set on perpetual growth and ever-greater density, at whatever the cost to the human and natural worlds.
The contentious project in question is The West Connex Motorway Toll Road and the way it's being aggressively pushed forward against the will of the people by the NSW's Liberal government and its Premier Mike Baird. This project the largest integrated transport and revitalization project in Australia that's designed to form a continuous, free-flowing motorway from Sydney's outer western communities to its inner-city suburbs and commercial business districts (CBD's).
This is literally and figuratively ‘Life in the Fast Lane' for the Sydney/NSW populace, as three planned stages intend to methodically march through - with roads, tunnels and rail - some 30 to 40 kilometers of densely-populated inner-city West suburbs, smashing-demolishing-pulverizing-devastating their way through the citizenry's lives, irrespective of how much rage, despair or bewilderment is caused, or personal and cultural losses incurred by the disappearance of whatever historic architectural heritage, archaeologically-significant aboriginal sites, fine inner-city commercial streetscapes, or ill-will that continues to spark ferocious protests by dozens of opposing city councils, environmental groups and tens of thousands of distraught citizenry.
The NSW Liberal government and Premier Mike Baird mostly remain dismissive of their detractors, treating them as the Hoi polloi while they continue to conduct themselves like a modern-day Aussie version of a tough, ruthless American Civil War Union Army and its General Phil Sheridan, waging their own Down Under scorched-earth policy and unstoppable “March through Georgia to the Sea!”
At the same time, this hard-nosed NSW Liberal Government and its Premier also have unilaterally chosen to create “Fit For the Future” legislation for almost half of the state's duly-elected councils, declaring that too many councils “Are Not Fit for the Future”, and any resistance therefore is futile. Their sole dictum: Amalgamate or be exterminated. Or to use that old doggerel pun, figuratively and literally: It's My Way or the Highway!
In spite of all the brouhaha that since has ensued, the NSW state government continues to unilaterally amalgamate elected city councils into ever-bigger entities against their will and despite numerous “Save Our Councils NSW” petitions that continue to everywhere spring up like mushrooms, whilst, without any discussion, mayors and councils continue to receive letters of severance directing them to reapply for their former elected positions, sign ‘loyalty oaths' and give cause why a single administrator shouldn't be appointed in their stead.
Some critics refer to this arrogant move as a Down Under copycat version of what the neoliberals in the U.S. government have been cynically doing in recent years to likewise depose mayors and councils of bankrupt towns and cities and impose a similar manager to run whatever local government, with the specific aim towards selling off public-owned assets to private profit interests. As a result, Sydney's news continues to be full of “Save Our Council” coalitions emerging between citizens of all political persuasions and parties, from the Christian Democrats, Labor, the Shooters & Fishers Party, Farmer's Party to the Green Party. The average Aussie can readily see the writing on the wall and knows what these neo-con tactics, being employed all around the world, are all about, and knows they haven't seen anything yet.
Freedom of speech and freedom of association are considered to be the cornerstones of Western democracy, though they do seem to be an ever-dwindling commodity everywhere in today's world. Yet the Baird government, in an attempt to stifle environmental protests against fossil fuel mining, also is in the process of aggressively pushing to radically amend NSW's Crimes Act, originally created in the 1980's to impose heavy jail sentences to quell the threat of industrial sabotage by coal mine protesters. The government now intent upon upgrading that draconian act to include, in 2016, anti-mining interference laws that would expand police powers to forcibly search peaceful protestors at coal seam (CSG) mines. Additionally, the new proposed Crimes Act could threaten protestors with criminal penalties of seven years in jail for simply non-violently locking themselves onto mining equipment at CSG mine sites.
This same NSW Neo-Liberal government continues its scourge and purge politics in still other nefarious ways, like Mafioso gangsters providing muscle for the rich and powerful, as they cozy up to billionaire developer interests from all over the world – especially from Asia – who eagerly use their 100's of millions of dollars with impunity to corrupt or influence whomever; applying every day to local-state-federal governments and their planning departments who provide little resistance to the continued escalation of ‘knockdowns' of historic, architecturally-significant homes and commercial structures all over Sydney's inner harbour, building in their place ever more glitzy, expensive and expansive construction that caters to the 1%'ers.
Asia's governments and their tourist industries, as well, continue to make ever-deeper inroads into the Australian-New Zealand market. In 2015, more than one million Chinese visited Australia and splurged some $4.7 billion dollars.
In 2016-2017, China anticipates some 24 million additional tourists will venture into the South Pacific, with outbound travel in the future projected to be upwards of 139 million. The demand is growing so fast that the Royal Caribbean Line has commissioned the Meyer Werf Shipyards in Papenburg Germany to produce a fleet of Quantum-size cruise ships – that some others call The Floating Babylongaroo Towers - to accommodate over 6,500 passengers and crew. Ovation of The Sea, the third in this fleet, is due to be launched in mid 2016 with the fourth to be built in 2019 and a fifth in 2020. Tourists and investors are obviously now China's hottest export: a silent invasion force in sneakers, if you will!
As Australia continues to welcome with open arms these beachhead assaults, as sly and covert as they are boldly overt: “THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD!”, as some would say. But one can circumnavigate the globe and hear this same grim ‘Tourism-Cruise Ship-Migrant-Investor Invasion' mantra being chanted.
The simple fact is that Chinese tourism and investors are keeping afloat Sydney's economy, as they are the economies of Canada and other Western countries. This may be an advantage in the short term but in the long term is counter-productive to protecting whatever country's traditional cultural-natural heritage and quality of life. Large portions of China's investment monies are clearly coming from dirty-illegal sources invested offshore by many who once were tough, ruthless, ‘Red Guard' party members or offspring's of Mao Tse Tung's Cultural Revolution, and so have a radically different ideological-philosophical world view of what culture and the future of the world means when compared to Westerners.
With every new planeload that lands at Mascot, or cruise ship that docks in Sydney Cove, swarms of yet more Chinese investors walk en mass through Sydney's CBD and surrounding industrial and residential areas, like modern-day ‘Economic Red Guards', staking out ever more new territories to rule; the new hardcore ‘Guard' as much into Capitalism as were the old hardcore Guard into Communism.
Such investment monies, ultimately, will end up creating as much as they destroy in whatever host country as they continue, virtually unchallenged, to sow the seeds of destruction to the West's distinctive cultures and civilization. One could look upon it as a slow form of cultural, societal, environmental suicide or genocide; a veritable invasion as real as any boots-on-the-ground military invasion that is radically transforming the world. Such tourism is exploding Australia's entire infrastructure (road-train-ferry-bus systems, airport-shipping-docking facilities) and, in places like Australia's Great Barrier Reef and Canada's Arctic, already is contributing to a degraded natural world and environment that now is being characterized as Extinction Tourism.
One should always keep in mind, however, those two, oh so true, universal clichés “It Always Takes Two to Tango”, and “There can't ever be a buyer without a seller”. So it's not solely the fault of however millions of rich ex-communists or nouveau riche Persian, East Indian, Middle Eastern investor groups; because too many in the West are always ready and willing to sell-out to the highest bidder, irrespective of whether the next buyer will protect and preserve for posterity their own tiny part of the world; otherwise readily prepared to not only throw themselves and their legacy on the funeral pyre but their children and children's children heritage, as well.
Some critics look back at where this slide in traditional Aussie culture first began in earnest and half-jokingly point to the so-called Year of Our Lord 1 A.C.D. (After Crocodile Dundee), during Australia's new era of film-making, tourism and development, when Australia became its own worst enemy as its doors were thrown open wide to aggressively promote or, as some would say, ‘prostitute' its Fair Brown Lands to the world.
The cultural malaise and Chinese Diaspora that ever since has followed has created the need for not only ever bigger cruise ships, but also has spurred the need to relieve Mascot's now over-taxed airport by creating yet a second major airport, slotted for the outskirts of Sydney, to be accommodated by a costly high-speed train system that will link Sydney's outer western communities with Sydney's inner west.
The rippling effect of all this throughout NSW is similar to what happened in North America in the 19th century as railroads hostilely pushed through the territories of aboriginal peoples, utterly destroying the way of life of the local native peoples, while ‘insider' real estate developers and land speculators bought up, for a pittance, everything in sight along the routes of the tracks and ultimately made a killing. In the case of New South Wales, once formerly small isolated country towns continue to mushroom. in leaps and bounds, in anticipation of the impending population explosion and economic boom.
In just one year, Sydney's Mascot airport already has morphed into an insane, traveler-unfriendly complex with fewer places to eat, hopelessly-long queues for bathrooms, and a labyrinthine high-tech immigration-tourist control area where passengers are herded like sheep through evermore sprawling, glitzy Duty-Free shops whose blandness now feels like every other international airport in the world.
So, what is now occurring in Sydney and New South Wales begs recalling the wisdom to be found in two simple yet profound sayings that can apply to human endeavors across the board which is that: Organization is Always the Death of the Idea & Bigger Is Not Always Better.
Unlike previous years travelled Down Under, what was overheard this time around in conversations between local Aussie's - on buses, street corners, train stations, cafes - was a flurry of topics about the same kinds of mounting cultural pressures that one can hear impacting upon Western countries all around the world; pressures like: why the local citizenry find themselves more and more forced to live and commute from ever-longer distances away from their inner-city urban jobs; what is causing the ever-spiraling rise of land values and escalating house prices; the mushrooming costs of living; out-of-control, grid-lock traffic; steep increases in the knockdowns of traditional housing stock; elimination of mature growth trees and natural landscapes of neighbourhoods; skyrocketing commercial leases and rents by absentee offshore owners, unregulated by indifferent state and local governments; escalating crime and ethnic gang violence; the shifting values/composition/privatization of schools, and lowering quality of curriculum with a lesser emphasis on traditional culture and values.
Dominating this one's conversations with local Aussie's was the constant angst heard expressed over the conflict between the dream and the hope of ever finding smaller, less-impacted, outlying communities where life is slower, traditional values and culture still prominent, and local community theatre's and community halls still feature wholesome, time-honoured movies and plays for the whole family with such beloved topics as: “Dot & the Kangaroo”, “The Magic Pudding” and “The Adventures of Blinkey Bill”; or where tradesmen still possess the same age-old work ethic to do a solid days work for a fair wage and mutually understand and use ‘Fair Dinkum' Aussie lingo.
Gleaned, too, during several months of travelling, listening and observing, were the constant undertones of rage heard about how traditional cultural practices are fast going by the boards because of the many incivilities caused by the impact of so many newcomers suddenly pouring into their communities.
Among the many little, but no less jarring, cultural changes noted by the locals, that they obviously found to be especially grating, were examples cited of small day-to-day things, like: more and more foul language being used in public places in the presence of women and children; an increase in vulgar expectorating on busy sidewalks; the crude emitting of flatulence in crowded public spaces; pushing past elderly, women and children to board a bus or train, or aggressively jump whatever queue with an “every man and woman for themselves” attitude.
Still other points of irritation noted was how newcomers, always said to be in such a hurry, walk like race horses, unwittingly, on both sides of the sidewalk rather than traditionally walk more slowly on the left side as old-time Aussie pedestrians still attempt to do; to make walking a more relaxed, pleasurable experience rather than constantly have to play the stressed-out game of “Side Walk Dodgem on the George Street Speedway”, as some call it.
Yet another irritant often overheard was the discomfort of seeing more and more ‘change jars' pop up in restaurants and cafes with the label “TIPS HERE!”, when local natives know, full-well, that tips aren't ever needed because employees already receive an adequate living wage and generous benefit package, unlike many countries who woefully underpay their employees with little to no added benefits. One verbal game witnessed being played between traditional Aussies is what they call “SPOT THE AUSSIE!” The challenge being to see if one can spot the lone native amongst the dominant hordes of newcomers.
The thought that troubled this observer most during these cultural exchanges – that were so simple yet profoundly-elucidating, as if they were accurate barometric pressure readings of the state of Aussie culture and society, begged the question, “Are these signs of a civilization in a calm and stable state, or one whose volatility shows ever darker, more threatening storms on the horizon just up ahead?”
The more this traveler Down Under continued to peruse all the scandalous news, and listen to still more stressed-out conversations among the local citizenry, all the more deeply vexing did it become to ponder how it was, in the first place, that the once ostensibly more ‘enlightened' electorate of New South Wales and Australia had apparently changed to such a degree that, in recent years, it had decided, in its collective wisdom, to actually ratify the elections of so many ruthless, insensitive mobs of thugs to guide their future.
The same thoughts arose about the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, and what this presages for the dubious future well-being of the world, no matter which candidate may win, Democrat or Republican, because of the warmongering, nuclear threat they both pose to the world as aggressive U.S.-NATO ‘War Games' ratchet up, and the employment of U.S.-NATO nuclear missile systems continue to proliferate in the Baltic countries all along Russia's borders; or the all-important ‘Brexit' vote in the U.K. to decide if it will remove itself from the E.U.; which, were that to come about, would no doubt spell doom for the E.U.'s future and open up yet another can of worms that further calls into question the future of the world.
Finally concluded was the thought that, “Perhaps the master plan of the world's .001% rulers is to simply keep inundating Western countries like Australia with politically naïve, compliant, more malleable newcomers who can always be so easily manipulated to think, act and vote however the supreme rulers may dictate! Maybe this is what they mean when they rub their hands with glee about the coming ‘New World Order'?
“Strewth!”, as one old-time Aussie put it, “God Help Us, ‘cause maybe no one else can or will!”
“Strewth!”, as one old-time Aussie put it, “God Help Us, ‘cause maybe no one else can or will!”
Over time Jerome Irwin has written numerous articles pertainng to various national and international political, economic, cultural and spiritual issues. He is currently working on the third volume of the autobiographical trilogy, "The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey". (www.turtle-island-odyssey.com)